Shaping a hollow wooden surfboard at Burnett Wood Surfboards. Photography by Dougal Paterson (

DECO caught up with Patrick Burnett of Burnett Wood Surfboards, and garnered some fascinating information about his environmentally conscious designs that break the mould of polyurethane boards. Burnett gives surfers the option to either purchase custom-built wood boards or even craft their own, as a far eco-friendlier alternative to traditional boards.

Build your own wood surfboard with Patrick Burnett
Build your own wood surfboard with Patrick Burnett

It became clear through our research into sustainable design, that each individual still needs to seriously up their game in making choices to adapt their homes, everyday habits, lifestyle and purchases to ensure decisions benefit the environment rather than cause detriment. These choices cut through all facets of life from building a house, to the transport you utilize even to what you do in your free time – and who better than surfers who connect so closely with their environment and want a surfboard design that’s not only the best aesthetically and in terms of functionality, but also a much greener option. Enter Burnett Wood Surfboards


Burnett Wood Surfboards make beautiful and functional wood surfboards. We showcase the beauty of nature in a variety of stunning surfboard shapes that reference surfing’s rich history and relationship between wood and water. Apart from made-to-order surfboards, we share our passion for these surfboards through unique course offerings where participants spend time in our workshop building their own wood surfboard. Our workshop is situated close to Cape Point Nature Reserve outside Scarborough in Cape Town.

We showcase the beauty of nature in a variety of stunning surfboard shapes that reference surfing’s rich history and relationship between wood and water.



Mass produced surfboards – of which millions are made globally every year –  use polyurethane (PU) foam, which is well known for the toxic emissions it emits in the production process and the fact that it is not biodegradable. Although hollow wood surfboards, which utilise an internal frame and thus completely eliminate the foam, make up a tiny percentage of boards produced globally, they do represent an alternative and more environmentally-friendly approach to making surfboards – and are proving popular with surf enthusiast hobbyists and a handful of companies globally.

In a 2011 Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study that specifically compared polyurethane (PU) foam boards with wood boards, it was found that wood surfboard production produced less than half the CO2 emissions and other noxious emissions of foam boards. The LCA looked at raw material production as well as production and assembly of the board itself. It excluded the use of resins in the glassing process because both foam and hollow wood surfboards make use of resins and therefore the emissions were equal. However, there are major advances being made in the development of environmentally-friendly glassing materials which Burnett Wood Surfboards has been using and experimenting with.

In the 2011 study the LCA of a hollow wood surfboard was estimated at 23.3kg of C02 emissions – less than half that of a foam surfboard. This included the entire life cycle production of a board, from the raw materials in the form of logs through to sawing, drying, planning and manufacture of the actual surfboard.


We are one of the few places globally where people can build their own wood surfboard. Those participating walk away from the course with their own handcrafted and very beautiful hollow wood surfboard. In so doing, they experience the reward of using their hands to craft a surfboard from beautiful timber.

Running since 2013, our courses take builders through all the theoretical and practical aspects of building a wood surfboard. We look at the different types of timber, the environmental aspects and the design dynamics underpinning wood surfboards. This is combined with the practical process of crafting a surfboard from a pile of planks into a one-of-a-kind work of art that can be surfed. Anybody can do our courses. It’s not essential that you have DIY or woodworking experience.


DECO advocates there’s no time like the present, so why not suit up and paddle out with your own custom made wood surfboard this Summer?


Burnett Wood Surfboards

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The Green Issue edition of ELLE Decoration South Africa will be on the shelf of your nearest magazine retailer from 28 September. Packed with sustainably stylish interiors, it’s full of all your favourite features and decor tips plus the green spaces of Patrizia Moroso and Pietro Russo. Order your copy today – across South Africa wherever magazines are sold – and tell us what you think on Twitter @ELLE_Deco, sharing your #GreenIssue #DECOselfie